All this talk at the Crack Den about“your campaign is a cult” really stems from a fear of passion. Whenever I go somehwere to talk about blogs and blogging, people ask what the chief thing people get from blogs that they can’t get from traditional media, and it’s usually passion I come around to talking about.
Whether it was the “war on Gore’s earth tones” campaign of 2000 or the “you’re just so angry, Howard Dean” bullshit of 2004, the pundits largely disdain people who get all het up about politics. It’s just strategy, moving pieces around the board, what this camp said to that camp, it’s all fairly bloodless to them. In their eyes, the first person to raise her voice loses the argument and I can’t even tell you how crazy that is, because honestly, the person who gives more of a shit about this is the person who’s at a disadvantage, really? We’re all supposed to be too cool for this sort of thing, too hip for the room? It’s uncouth, isn’t it, somehow, this rabble of shouting and cheering, this wholething where we actually get excited. It’s so nonconfrontational passive-aggressive, it’s so completely full of shit, but they’ve laid down the rules: You get involved, god forbid you getemotionally involved, and you’ve lost the thread.
It didn’t used to be that way. The journalists I admire most are the ones who wrote so you could hear their voices thundering in rage, the Jimmy Breslins and William Evjues and Brian McGrorys, the Miriam Ottenbergs, the people who tore up the page, such that you had to take a deep breath after reading, such that your breakfast got cold while they held your attention. It used to be a mark of excellence, the strut and power of your words. It used to be that you wrote what you wrote because something waswrong and god damn it, you were gonna scream about it at the top of your lungs until somebody was gonnado something. It used to be about a mission, fucking hell, it used to be why we got up in the morning.
What happened to that? Twenty years of shrieking that passion was bias, that advocacy was crusading, that objectivity was evenhanded treatment of assholes and insects as though their wankery mattered, but I think in large part people in media got bored, in 2000, and scared, after 2001. It became okay, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, to refrain from talking too loud or saying too much, it became okay to tell other people they ought to shut up. Theminute that happened, all the rest of it followed, freedom fries and supporting the troops, swift-boating and spy-outing, all of it became okay because anything was acceptable so long as it didn’t happen with too much pizzazz. Wouldn’t want to draw attention. Wouldn’t want to make a splash. Wouldn’t want, for the love of God, to stand up and speak because you saw what happened to people who did that. They were called crazy. Sit down, write about how awful it is that Code Pink yelled at Donald Rumsfeld and some blogger has breasts. I hear Edwards once hired someone who swears.
So we’re all bloodless now, and along comes a reason for us to get flushed and excited, for us to stand up and wave our arms and shout and cheer. Along comes the passion we feel we’ve been missing in American life and in politics, and we throw ourselves at it like prom dates two minutes to midnight. Can you blame us? It’s not just Obama, or just blogs, where I find the thundering power and might of the righteous voice these days. It’s not just one candidate over another. It’s that for too long we’ve been told to sit down and shut up and that it’s rude to give a damn, and that isn’t living, that isn’t life, that’s not even death, not even that honest. That’s slow suffocation by superiority, that’s what that is.
We throw ourselves into it and of course it scares the shit out of people whose stock in trade is convincing us to view everything like it’s some big ironic joke. Of course it looks like a cult. What they can’t see is that the opposite — where we deify disinterest — isn’t all that far off. They accuse you of being that which they fear they’ve become.